As I write, representatives from foundations and regional associations are meeting with their Members of Congress to discuss how philanthropy and government can work together to find solutions to America’s most pressing issues. Foundations on the Hill is a great opportunity to build relationships and inform the public sector’s understanding of the problems philanthropy addresses day in and day out. One area where progress seems hopeful is education.
Over the weekend, the Obama Administration released its plan for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind Act. The plan—a Blueprint for Reform (PDF)—was discussed by President Obama in his weekly address to the nation. He said, “Unless we take action—unless we step up—there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential. I don’t accept that future for them. And I don’t accept that future for the United States of America.”
For the last year, the Department of Education has been involved in an extensive effort to develop a new vision for ESEA, visiting all 50 states and gathering input through town halls, school visits, roundtables with teachers and community members, forums at their headquarters, meetings with elected officials and association leaders, and countless one-on-one conversations.
Many foundations and their grantees and partners have been a part of these conversations. The Department of Ed. has attempted to weave together the best suggestions from stakeholders across the country with the key principles of President Obama and Secretary Duncan. The Blueprint builds off of practices and programs that have been demonstrated to work in local schools and districts and seeks to expand upon them. It aims to remedy current ESEA provisions seen as ineffective at the local level, while maintaining a strong focus on raising academic achievement for all students and closing achievement gaps that have persisted for far too long.
This law affects every public school and millions of children in our country, and it’s important that funders have all of the information to keep grantees and partners fully informed and engaged.